April 2015 will be remembered as a milestone for women; the NFL announced Sarah Thomas as the first woman referee. Kudos to Sarah and her accomplishment! In an article by Gary Myers, Sarah stated, “I never set out to become the first female official in the NFL. . . I don’t feel that it’s been harder for me because I’m a female. I think that we are just out here working as officials. . . I think that’s what moves us along, not because of our gender or our race.” Sarah makes a wonderful point here because she’s not trying to prove anything to anyone. She’s just passionate about her job and doing the best she can. Apparently, she is pretty darn good at it, too!
I was extremely proud to hear of her accomplishment. However, once I started looking at the comments on articles about the story, I realized she has a long road ahead of her. Of course, there are many women and men out there with very positive comments; wishing her luck and showing excitement about what she can do in the upcoming season:
On the flipside, there were some not so positive comments:
I find these negative comments to be frustrating and unfair, and would like to understand why these comments are even occurring. Why do people think Sarah is unqualified?
Her resume is absolutely stellar. She’s a 19-year veteran and got her start in 1996 when she became the first woman in Mississippi to officiate a Division I-A high school football game. Because of her success at the high school level, she eventually moved to the collegiate level where she spent eight years with Conference USA. Her collegiate milestones include an appearance in the 2009 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, which was the first time a female official worked a college bowl game, and her appearance in the Rice-Northwestern game in 2011 marked the first time a female official refereed in a Big Ten stadium. Additionally, she graduated from the NFL Officiating Development program which trains top college officials in all aspects of NFL officiating. She is one of nine graduates of this program that will be granted first-time employment for league games. As a woman of only 42 years old, she has spent a little under half of her lifetime refereeing. She is the definition of an experienced hire.
If her resume alone is not enough for you, Sarah played basketball and softball in high school and attended the University of Mobile on a basketball scholarship where she was an Academic All-American. Clearly, the competitive nature and understanding of athletics is something she is very familiar with, but we are still left with that daunting question: Why is she doubted by so many? As I previously mentioned, her resume and experience are amazing. So the only answer I am left with, then, is that she is a woman.
Both men and women have their own strengths. According to Tanya Lewis, “Male brains have more connections within hemispheres to optimize motor skills, whereas female brains are more connected between hemispheres to combine analytical and intuitive thinking.” Regardless of how we are wired, both men and women can run down a football field and make a judgement call. Nothing about Sarah’s resume and being a female indicates failure; just that she will bring something new to the table. Instead of wasting time bashing her accomplishment, people should actually be rooting for her. She’s a perfect fit for the job and should get the respect she deserves.
Sarah and many other women are just as qualified for jobs as their male counterparts, but are often not given the opportunity or are criticized because of their gender. As a society, shouldn’t we give that opportunity to anyone who is qualified? Why do we hinder someone just because they are different? It’s up to us to make the change. Choose to encourage before choosing to criticize.